Electrostatic speakers

Here is where we focus on separating the facts from the fiction, identifying what we KNOW from what what we DON'T KNOW about the life and work of Townsend Brown

Electrostatic speakers

Postby natecull » Wed Aug 06, 2008 5:48 am

Starting a new thread to try to keep it tidy. I'm interested in finding out what I can about the companies making electrostatic loudspeakers in the 1960s-70s period to see if we can find any possible 'technology transfer' links from Townsend Brown's Loudspeaker. If nothing else, it seems like it would be useful to compare Brown's technology with what was state of the art at the time to see how it differed.

The first thing is the lack of a diaphram. I asked my audio engineer friend who swears he's worked with and built diaphram-less ESLs, what company names he can recall who made them. He gave me one name off the top of his head: Dayton-Wright.

A random review here:
http://www.audiocircuit.com/index.php?c=DAY&cc=941#

Some initial details from the horse's mouth here:
http://www.dayton-wright.com/DaytonWright.html

All of these models seem to have diaphrams however. Linda, do any of the photos or diagrams in this page look familiar otherwise?

I need to read and digest this and do some more digging, but a few things to note: ESLs seem to be an expensive audiophile niche device class for very demanding users, and requiring some pretty clever engineering. It was definitely a happening 'scene' in the 1950s and seems like it would have been the logical kind of crossover market segment for a group with electrostatics experience (such as with air purifiers) to try to break into. Also, William Wright seems to have had no end of trouble of the kind familiar to the Brown family. Not necessarily from the same sources, but perhaps his story is useful as a baseline of what developing and marketing a new technology can be like.

Also, William Wright was from Canada and had Navy links (but on the other side of the fence, developing diving suits as a private contractor; doesn't write highly of his experience filing patents with the Canadian National Research Council).

Familar scenery, I think, but not *necessarily* connected.

But the reference to the Leigh takeover in the 70s makes my ears tingle a little.

In the late spring of 1976, the company was raided when the founder was in England visiting their European Distributor in Belgium and setting up an exhibit at the Heathrow Audio Show for their English Distributor.
Upon hs return he found that the company was in the process if being sold to Leigh Instruments in Waterloo, Ontario.


However as soon as the sale was finalized, Leigh broke their promise and fired some of the staff and closed down the building on Industrial Road in Richmond Hill and dismantled the heavy equipment as well as sending the test equipment to Waterloo. During the move all of Wm. Wright's personal files including medical research papers relating to neuophysics.

When Wright protested he was told that Leigh needed the file cabinets themselves because of their consolidation and Wright was shown several two by three cardboard cartons of loose papers and was told to cart them away.

Wright had to rent a panel truck and started to go through the piles of papers, When he tried to move them out to the panel truck, he was stopped by Leigh's security guard and was informed that they had called him and told him the papers were not to be moved until each was inspected!

.Another stalemate! Wright was never able to recover almost 17 years of R&D. He had only the single drawer file cabinet he had kept at home!



There were also strange tales about the "High Security Barn" and the purchase of radar trailers by the US division of Leigh!

When Wm. Wright asked to be released from his contract, the Leigh management refused. But when he told them what he had found out, they reversed their position.


Hmmmmm.

Edit: Trimmed for space.
Last edited by natecull on Fri Aug 08, 2008 1:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby natecull » Wed Aug 06, 2008 6:27 am

General background and history.

Quad ESL:

http://www.quadesl.org/History/Actual_E ... _esls.html

During the ten years from 1925 to 1935 there were quite a few patents issued and technical articles written about electrostatic loudspeakers. These include patents granted to Frederick W. Lee (U.S. Pat.: 1,622,039) in 1925 and Walter Hahnemann (U.S. Pat.: 1,674,683) in 1926. Both of these are referred to by Williamson and Walker in researching their own project. Despite some ingenious designs during this period, the electrostatic speaker made little, if any, practical progress. The major reason for this was undoubtedly the lack of materials with suitable physical properties. Substances such as gelatin, japan varnish, gold size, silk gutta percha and rubber are mentioned in early patents! Lacking a suitable insulator, early designers were also forced to rely solely on the air gap and diaphragm for protection against electrical breakdown. Clearly, this limited the voltages that could be used and the audio power resulting therefrom.

So, lacking suitable materials (e.g. Mylartm, E.I. Du Pont, March 22, 1949 (U.S. Patent 2,465,319) for diaphragms and so on, early researchers in this field became very clever (or cunning). One of the first electrostatic speaker patents, issued to Colin Kyle (U.S. 1,644,387) used a thin, flexible diaphragm, fly wire, and mosquito netting! The conductive coating used thin metal leaf, insulated from the stator by placing it under thin layer of gelatine. This particular unit was studied by Walker when researching the ESL '63.

P.E. Edelman, around 1931, produced and electrostatic speaker using gold foil, japan varnish, tensioned springs and expandable corners. He was granted six patents in all, (U.S. Patents: 1,759,809 / 1,776,112 / 1,759,810 / 1,759,811 / 1,767,656 and 1,767,657) in the field of electrostatic loudspeakers.

A couple of significant developments by Kellogg described in U.S. Patent: 1,983,377 and G.B. Patent: 346,646 were referenced by Williamson and Walker when researching the Quad Electrostatic. Kellogg's U.S. Patent was not granted until December 4, 1934, but the filing date is September 17, 1929! This paper has significant sections on segmenting panels in an electrostatic speaker such that it presents a simpler load to the amplifier. It describes both single-ended and push-pull speaker concepts. The connection of panels through a resistor and and inductor was used to great effect by a number of designers after World War II, and the Quad folks were well acquainted with Kellogg's work. Indeed, the designs Kellogg propounded in G.B. Pat: 346,646 was a very heavy influence on Walker in his later design of the ESL '63 as he noted in a lecture in September, 1979. The popular magazine "Wireless World" often contained significant articles on speakers, and one such article on May 29, 1929 seems to have caught Williamson's or Walker's eye. Walker would have been a young lad of 13 years at the time. This article by Hans Vogt, entitled (what else?) "The Vogt Electrostatic Loudspeaker" seems to have made a lasting impression on one or both of the Quad designers, since they (much later) refer to both of Vogt's Patents (G.B. 387,546 and G.B. 372,649) [Sheet 2], which data from around May 12, 1932.

After World War II and until around 1965 significant effort was expended on electrostatic speaker design on both sides of the Atlantic. Arthur Janszen in the United States developed his famous high frequency units (U.S. Patent 2,631,196 [Sheet 2], March 10, 1953. His second patent (U.S. Patent 2,896,025 July 21, 1959) describes a unique (for the time) method of manufacturing stators from wound wires, instead of perforated metal. A great enthusiasm of the period was to combine the Janszen electrostatic tweeter with Acoustic Research’s first bookshelf loudspeaker, the AR-1. Janszen eventually developed and built the full range KLH-9. This full range speaker, was purely electrostatic, but perhaps not as capable in the bass as it could have been.

Meantime, Peter Walker (Acoustical Mfg. Ltd.) and David Williamson (Ferranti Ltd., Edinburgh) were designing and building the very first Quads. The Quad was a 'horizontal' design compared with Janszen's 6 foot high line source. The centre strip of the middle Quad (treble) panel was 11/2inches wide with a cutoff frequency of 7 000 Hz. The two mid-range strips placed either side of this strip in the same panel, but segmented (after Kellogg) from the central strip electrically. The bass panels were placed symmetrically on either side of the treble panel. The treble panel was charged to 1 500 Volts and the bass panels were charged to 6 000 Volts.

Around 1963, according to legend, Peter Walker set out, on his own this time, to improve on the original Quad ESL. His efforts as we know, led to the speaker we now call the ESL '63 (U.S. Patent 3,773,984) [Sheet 2]. The unusual segmentation features of this speaker can trace their line of development directly to Kellogg's original G.B. Patent 346,646, and a comparison of the two patents reveals interesting similarities. The original AES lecture [Page 2, Page 3] given by Peter Walker in September 1979, clearly refers to Kellogg's work in connection with the ESL '63.


http://www.hificollective.co.uk/books/bk5002.html

No one writing about the electrostatic has contributed more to the success of amateur electrostatic speaker builders than Roger R. Sanders. His first article on the topic appeared in The Audio Amateur in 1975 (pp. 18-28). His designs were inspired, to some extent, and informed by, the pioneering work of David Hermeyer, who published a series of Audio Amateur articles on building electrostatics, along with power amplifiers designed to drive them.


Beveridge Audio - a personal view. Lots of 'kitchen table engineering' in this whole business it seems.

http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~ross/perso ... tory2.html

My father, Harold Beveridge, was a highly skilled engineer with a deep love for music. He studied electrical engineering at McGill University in Canada. From 1947 to 1954, he worked at Raytheon, in Waltham, Massachusetts. He was involved with designing vacuum tubes and the early commercial development of Radar.


By 1951, he had already decided that the inherent limitations of a dynamic speaker were so severe that, even with tremendous gains in technology, they would never produce a satisfactory transient response. Several people had been experimenting with electrostatic designs and had written about their work. My Father read their reports and decided to look into the potential he saw in electrostatic devices.

His first effort was a single-sided electrostatic transducer, or panel. It was made from a rectangular piece of 1/4 inch gray slate. The plate, which was 12 inches by 16 inches in size, had over one thousand 3/16 inch holes drilled through it. The side away from the Mylar membrane was painted with a conductive silver paint, spreading the charge over the entire surface.

My Father would put the transducer on a table with the membrane side up, sprinkle table salt on it and photograph the patterns which would form at different frequencies, amplitudes, and membrane tensions. He would also put a piece of white paper on top of the membrane and sprinkle it with iron filings so that he could observe the electro-magnetic field patterns.

I was often invited to watch. It was fascinating and good fun for both of us. My Father spent quite a bit of time explaining to me how different wave forms behaved and interacted. By then, I was probably seven or eight years old. He explained concepts such as sine waves, resonant oscillations and nulls, and intermodulation distortion. He studied every detail of these fledgling transducers, and through watching him I too learned a great deal both about sound and about experimental methodology.


Two of these speakers were built by 1959, giving us a very good sounding stereo sound system. The cabinets looked good, but took up a substantial amount of floor space. Also, the artificial flowers my mother had put in each "bowl" for decoration had to be removed after the first time that a cleaning lady watered them, drowning the transducers!
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby natecull » Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:29 am

A note here about 'ionic', 'plasma arc' or 'flame' speakers. They seem to work on a very different principle from electrostatic speakers, and Townsend Brown's speaker seems to resemble an electrostatic more than it does an ionic - but obviously both use ions. The ionic speaker appears to use the ions as a reaction mass themselves. It seems to mostly be useful for high frequencies, especially ultrasonic (presumably because of the small amount of plasma).

I'm wondering whether Brown's speaker may have had some of the characteristics of an ionic as well as electrostatic speaker?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_arc_loudspeaker
http://www.audiocircuit.com/index.php?c ... rt=brands#


Since plasma has minimal mass, but is charged and therefore can be manipulated by an electric field, the result is a very linear output at frequencies far higher than the audible range.

A Ionic speaker is a loudspeaker that creates sound by varying air pressure through a corona discharge or electric arc. It is an evolution of William Duddell's singing arc of 1900 and modern research into spacecraft propulsion in the form of the ion thruster.


http://www.ee.vill.edu/ion/p13.html

Then, in 1946, Dr. Siegfried Klein tried using the corona discharge to create sound. The invention worked. Dr. Klein patented the invention under French patent number 1,041,790, and US patent number 2,768,246. He experimented with different emitter materials to find which would last the longest and sustain the flame the best. In 1954, work started on producing the ion tweeter with DuKane in the USA as a commercial product, which first came out in 1956. The ion tweeters were also sold in England, Germany, and France under names such as IonoPhone, Ionovac, and IonoFane.[2]

Much later, Dr. Klein came out with several patents on other ion tweeter designs under patent numbers 4,306,120, 4,464,544, and 4,482,788. These patents were filed between March 1980 and July 1982 (granted as late as November 1984). Two of these patents did away with the horn-loading that was used on the early tweeters and concentrated on 360-degree sound dispersion. Even these new designs, however, used vacuum tubes extensively.


http://www.swtpc.com/mholley/PopularEle ... cation.htm

This 1968 Popular Electronics article about the flame loudspeaker is intriguing because of its reference to military classification of the process. Presumably because of the links with rocket propulsion.

MUSIC FROM THE FIREPLACE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER
BY JAMES JOSEPH

POPULAR ELECTRONICS, May 1968, Pages 47-53

WE LIVE IN an era jaded by science's seemingly routine discovery of basic phenomena-coherent light and the laser; superconductivity and the super-cold realm of zero resistance; weightlessness and its impact upon space electronics. And now, flame amplification.

"Flame which behaves physically and electrically like a high-fidelity loudspeaker ... and has inherent amplification besides," explains Dr. A. G. Cattaneo, manager of United Technology Center's Sunnyvale, Calif., Physical Sciences Laboratory, and one of flame amplification's three co-discoverers.

So saying, Dr. Cattaneo strikes a match to an acetylene-oxygen fueled welding torch poised on a test stand in one of UTC's highly classified and restricted laboratories. Carefully, he adjusts the torch's flame until, blue-hot (about 4200°F), it burns with livid intensity.


Pluses of the Flame Speaker. Dr. Cattaneo might have added some other pertinent facts about flame amplification and the remarkable "ion speaker." For example, it is likely the world's first truly omni directional loudspeaker. The sound emitted from the flame is broadcast with equal force in all directions . . . spherically through a full 360 degrees.

Frequency range and fidelity are other sizable pluses of the flame speaker. Its frequency response range is three to four times that of any known mechanical speaker-and future tests, far beyond the audio spectrum, may well show even higher response. Where, for, example, even the best and costliest of diaphragm type speakers can reproduce, at their highest range, only about 30,000 Hz (at best, about 12,000 Hz above what even the most acute human ear can hear), the flame speaker has shown it can reproduce at least 100,000 Hz.


That would be the opposite of the electrostatic speaker (including the Brown speaker), which is highly directional.

The UTC's researchers probed deepest, however, and stumbled, quite by accident, upon the full significance of the phenomenon while trying to duplicate in the lab the jet-flame exhaust of rocket motors.

Experimental "Put-Together." Says Wayne Babcock, who did much of the experimental put-together, "One day, about two years ago, some of our people came in and asked if we could simulate a rocket's exhaust flame. The idea was to feed sound into the propulsive exhaust system at one place and take it out at another-for a better understanding of the relationship between rocket combustion and noise. For one thing, we hoped to discover what various noises told about a rocket's internal behavior. And especially if certain undesirable internal resonances could be detected by analyzing noise from a rocket's fiery exhaust."


Talking Flames. Flame amplification's most immediate uses are highly classified, involving missile and rocket engine research. But momentarily you can expect "talking flames" to make their appearances as crowd-pleasing oddities at fairs and trade shows.

Far deeper, however, will be the impact of flame amplification on the future of electronics. For flame has become an electronic component.
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby Linda Brown » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:20 pm

Nate,

Again.... really good stuff here. Thanks for this thread.

I am not the technical one to ask on all of this but like you ..... there are things that vibrate for me. Maybe this the most, regarding " prior use"

"Talking Flames. Flame amplification's most immediate uses are highly classified, involving missile and rocket engine research. But momentarily you can expect "talking flames" to make their appearances as crowd-pleasing oddities at fairs and trade shows."

Crowd pleasing oddities at fairs and trade shows? Well, I don't recall seeing that recently. But of course there was the incident of the burning bush. <g> Linda
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby natecull » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:47 pm

Linda Brown wrote:"Talking Flames. Flame amplification's most immediate uses are highly classified, involving missile and rocket engine research. But momentarily you can expect "talking flames" to make their appearances as crowd-pleasing oddities at fairs and trade shows."

Crowd pleasing oddities at fairs and trade shows? Well, I don't recall seeing that recently. But of course there was the incident of the burning bush. <g> Linda


My audio friend has toured with concerts and said yes, he's seen flame speakers used. Mostly as a gimmick. The big problem I think was just getting enough sound out of them. The electrostatics had the same problem, especially if a diaphragm was not used.

There seems to be some serious technology goes into some of these things. Cf Martin Logan, a 1980s company:

http://www.us.martinlogan.com/tour/ml_history.html


Through a network of high-technology manufacturers, Sanders and Sutherland enlisted the help of other engineers with cutting-edge expertise and interest in the project. The company that fabricated the space shuttle's filtered windows and the people who created Teflon-coated cookware joined the design team. From their combined effort emerged a patented vapor-deposition process, an optically transparent diaphragm that could support a 5,000-volt charge, and a conformal coating that uniformly insulated each perforated stator to a charge of up to 10,000 volts.

By the time of the 1983 CES, they had developed a full-range hybrid electrostatic loudspeaker they called the Monolith.


But! Even more interestingly, Arthur Janzen, who created the KLH-9 which apparently along with Quad and the Dayton-Wright was one of the big 1950s-60s electrostatics, has Navy links:

http://www.audiocircuit.com/index.php?c=JAN&cc=841#

Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory. The final leg of the trail toward the first practical electrostatic loudspeaker began during the Second World War at Harvard's Underwater Sound Laboratory, where Arthur A. Janszen (a.k.a., A2) was a Research Associate in Physics working on defense technologies for the U.S. Office of Naval Research under the lab's Director, acoustics luminary Frederick V. Hunt. A. A. Janszen's main focus in the lab during the war was developing hydrophonic technology along with related signal processing and control systems for detecting and homing in on propeller sounds from enemy vessels. To get a feel for the extent of the challenge, imagine developing the first acoustically self-guided torpedoes, and making them reliable and fail-safe using vacuum tube circuitry and relay-based rudder controls under conditions that included dropping them into rough seas from spotter planes.

After the war ended, another Navy project surfaced. A. A. Janszen had developed an electrostatic transducer to use as a high quality reference sound source for testing the hyrophones for the underwater ordnance project. This was further developed with the goal of producing a clear-sounding, directive cockpit speaker for our pilots. The contract was fulfilled in 1950 with the issuance of a groundbreaking Technical Memorandum authored by A. A. Janszen. This publication covered methods of construction and sonic performance that were very distinct from what had been invented up until that time. The Navy declined to pursue the technology further, however. Starting at about this time, the lab's development activities began to be gradually curtailed, and its facilities served mainly educational purposes for the next couple of decades.


The Apartment with the World's First Practical Electrostatic Loudspeaker. With the Lab's electrostatic speaker work over, A. A. Janszen decided to continue it on his own time in a small lab he set up in his apartment, from love of audio and the complex and fascinating physics of electrostatic loudspeakers. His laboratory notebooks from these nights and weekends were filled with a long progression of the brainstorms, conjectures, proofs, experimental results and conclusions of a well organized mind completely engrossed in the science. Many hobbyists these days know that it's really quite an experience when a beautiful sound comes out of a loudspeaker they've built. But one can be sure that it's even better for the pioneer who invents a new loudspeaker technology, especially when it makes remarkably better sound than had come out of any previous loudspeaker.

Eventually, A. A. Janszen realized it was possible to make this technology practical for use in uniquely high fidelity home loudspeakers, and began developing a manufacturable embodiment. All this work eventually resulted in patented technology that is still referenced to this day. Since the foundations were laid while in University employ, Mr. Janszen consulted Harvard regarding its official interest in the technology. The university declared that they had no interest, and released him from the need to make a patent assignment, something that would probably seem surprising if it happened these days.

JansZen Laboratory. In 1954, when he felt confident that he could succeed in selling his loudspeakers, A. A. Janszen resigned his position at Harvard and founded Janszen Laboratory, Inc. in North Cambridge, MA. At the Sixth Annual Convention of the Audio Engineering Society in NYC in October 1954, he presented a well received paper, "An Electrostatic Loudspeaker Development", which later appeared in the April 1955 issue of the society's Journal.

A. A. Janszen then developed a series of products that are now legendary, the best known probably being the 130 tweeter array, which made a great team with the best woofer of its day, the one found in the Acoustic Research AR-1. The model number corresponds with the radiating area in square inches, counting both sides. In 1959, A. A. Janszen decided to accept a license offer from Neshaminy Electronic Corp. (Frank Wetherill), and sold them rights to manufacture and use the tweeter along with help in developing products that incorporated it.

A. A. Janszen had also been developing the World's first full-range electrostatic loudspeaker, with ground-breaking industrial design by Boston architect William I. Barton. Models were put into field tests starting in 1957, and the design was refined. These prototypes received a very positive reception, and JansZen Labs began shipping a production version in early 1959. This development had attracted the attention of KLH.

KLH. During 1959, JansZen Laboratory's assets were transferred to KLH.
A. A. Janszen was made a Vice President, and the KLH Nine was born. In their brochures, regarding the Nine's development and production, KLH described how it had broken with its usual cost model, sparing no expense to make what was simply the most accurate sound reproducer up until that time, and production was indeed exceptionally labor intensive.

...

After leaving KLH, some time then passed during which A. A. Janszen became involved in various non-acoustical activities, including agricultural practices development for Mexico through a joint effort between our State Dept's Agency for International Development and Mexico's State Dept. Eventually, he was ready for something new in the audio area again, although he kept up his A.I.D. work for another decade or so.

Acoustech. An investment group including Koss Electronics, Inc. approached Mr. Janszen with an irresistible offer to become involved in another full range electrostatic loudspeaker project, this one involving integration with the first solid state high fidelity amplifier of its type. This would become the Acoustech X from Acoustic Technology Laboratory, Inc. (a.k.a., Acoustech, Inc., a.k.a. the Acoustech Division of Koss Electronics).

This system was known as the "Ten", in loose succession to the KLH Nine....
[/quote]

I flagged the USAID years because that has a rep as being an intelligence cover, hasn't it? It could have been perfectly innocent charitable work, of course.

Fascinating business, high-end audio. I'm starting to understand a little more how deeply intertwined the music industry is with defence.

Edit: Trimmed for space.
Last edited by natecull on Fri Aug 08, 2008 1:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby Linda Brown » Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:10 pm

Just noting how very much was going on at the time and how much most of this was linked into the Navy... but there are other similarities to Janszens work and what is going on with us that I noted here too, thanks to your post.

Yesterday I happened to be speaking to someone who is very much into the development of something which will be of interest to all of you some day. He explained that he was " hooked" on the research .... that he and his research partner agreed that it was like some sort of euphoric drug that they couldn't put down. That he personally was having dreams of stuff that he didn't entirely understand.

And looking at what you have said here Nate ... perhaps this is just sort of the way these things happen to a receptive and welcoming mind?

"The Apartment with the World's First Practical Electrostatic Loudspeaker. With the Lab's electrostatic speaker work over, A. A. Janszen decided to continue it on his own time in a small lab he set up in his apartment, from love of audio and the complex and fascinating physics of electrostatic loudspeakers. His laboratory notebooks from these nights and weekends were filled with a long progression of the brainstorms, conjectures, proofs, experimental results and conclusions of a well organized mind completely engrossed in the science. Many hobbyists these days know that it's really quite an experience when a beautiful sound comes out of a loudspeaker they've built. But one can be sure that it's even better for the pioneer who invents a new loudspeaker technology, especially when it makes remarkably better sound than had come out of any previous loudspeaker."

Dad sometimes slept on the floor of his lab... just so that he could be close to the developments as they happened. Pretty heady stuff indeed.
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby kevin.b » Wed Aug 06, 2008 1:21 pm

Linda brown,
If we act as attractors to whatever we are engrossed in, then if the information is held in a lattice structure, the place to be, is the point on that lattice where the information is naturally heading in abundance.
If for whatever reason your father found himself early in life sleeping on such a point, then his interest will have been super charged, as the field of those upto 21 is much larger than those older.
It may have led to your father becoming naturally drawn to such points, like a homing pigeon.
He may also have been able to pin point them with his devices as well?
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby greggvizza » Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:35 am

Nate,

Have you found any documentation to support your friend's claim that there are electrostatic speakers without diaphragms?

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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby natecull » Thu Aug 07, 2008 5:49 am

greggvizza wrote:Nate,
Have you found any documentation to support your friend's claim that there are electrostatic speakers without diaphragms?
GV


Not so far, no. Other than the ionics. I don't doubt his word, but he did say that for the ones he built, there was a lot less sound (and more air coming out, which is an annoyance if you don't want a fan) without a diaphragm, so I assume that most of the audio companies found no particular advantage from not having one and plenty of good reasons to have one.

It does suggest to me that perhaps Townsend Brown's approach was slightly off to the side of both Janszen's, who seems to have defined the concept initially, and Wright's, who came later - but how much his heart was really in audio, and if he just missed the improvements that a diaphragm would give and saw that as a much less interesting implementation detail to be left to others, I don't know. I find it a bit of a puzzle frankly and maybe that's a clue to what if anything made his version special. By conventional thinking it looks like he was exploring a technological dead end, but one that might have appeared valid at the time. I suppose I'm not 100% convinced that there was anything gravitic about his speaker technology if it was the same as the Ionic Breeze. Making a dual-use fan/speaker is a cute technology demonstration but seems like not particularly good audio engineering. That's no criticism of him personally, smart at one thing does not necessarily imply being smart at everything, and very smart people have struggled to make good speakers.

But if Brown's version somehow did produce significantly better quality audio without a diaphragm than either a KLH-9 or a Dayton-Wright, both of which seem to have had military applications, then I can see it plausibly being judged too sensitive for commercialisation and buried, and that would be a very exciting result.

I know I've been posting too much here (and block quotes from interim Google searches at that) so I'll try to cut down, but I would just like to say that I think Janszen is THE name to beat here and a lot of aspects of 'the speaker' would need to be compared to what he was doing. If Brown was at all competent, it is simply not conceivable to me that he would have been unaware of Janszen's Navy efforts in electrostatic sonics and his subsequent commercialisation efforts. Like AMPEX, KLH *must* have been connected to the military-intelligence community, and if Brown was building his own high-performance loudspeaker in the mid-1960s he must have either worked with him or had a rivalry with him. If the two never crossed paths then Brown was not doing his homework, because who would set out to develop a hugely risky, commercially sensitive new technology extremely similar to an existing one in a cutthroat market without at least taking a look at the territory? Only someone who didn't give a damn if their efforts went to waste or not, and Linda's account of his frustration when the speaker project folded doesn't seem like that's the case.

http://www.janszenloudspeaker.com/autobio%20aaj.htm
http://www.stereophile.com/news/050905janszen/

I mean if this doesn't scream 'gone black' what does?

The resulting Office of Naval Research Technical Memorandum was groundbreaking in its description of construction techniques and sonic performance, but the Navy declined to develop the project further and, in fact, phased out the developmental aspect of the department.


Yeah right. *Someone* in the Navy took up that technology while KLH did the commercial side. Was it Brown, or someone else? Did Brown think 'we could do this better?' Did he do it better for someone other than Navy?

Janszen's son has got into the family business, and has a website. Wonder if he's worth contacting?
http://www.janszen.com/1.html

These other names bear investigating too:
Kellogg, Rice, Klipsch, Voigt, Walker, and Janszen all indisputably make the all-star team... John Hilliard at Altec Lansing
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby Linda Brown » Thu Aug 07, 2008 12:22 pm

Nate.

If you don't mind, I need to wade in here on some of the conclusions that you are reaching for. Maybe between the two of us we can get to a more defined viewpoint.

I don't know if you realized it or not but the " loudspeaker" did not have to have an appreciable air flow. At all. Maybe that might tweak some of your thinking. We even put speaker cloth over the front and airflow was never an issue. Technically don't ask me how that was accomplished. <g>

You say here
"By conventional thinking it looks like he was exploring a technological dead end, but one that might have appeared valid at the time. I suppose I'm not 100% convinced that there was anything gravitic about his speaker technology if it was the same as the Ionic Breeze. Making a dual-use fan/speaker is a cute technology demonstration but seems like not particularly good audio engineering. That's no criticism of him personally, smart at one thing does not necessarily imply being smart at everything, and very smart people have struggled to make good speakers." And in that group of thoughts you have me at a disadvantage. Can we go back and take each of those apart?

What do you mean " by conventional thinking it looks like he was exploring a technological dead end" I'm lost there can we discuss that more?

" I suppose I'm not 100% convinced that there was anything gravitic about his speaker technology."........ Nate. Has anyone made that direct claim? If there were gravitic components to the fan or loudspeaker (or anything like that) should we think that it would be lying on the top of things? I doubt that its going to be all that easy. Might it actually be seen along with what was presented? I sense an onion peel situation here that is very mysterious and not easy to decipher.

"Making a dual-use fan/speaker is a cute technology demonstration but seems like not particularly good audio engineering. That's no criticism of him personally, smart at one thing does not necessarily imply being smart at everything, and very smart people have struggled to make good speakers."

You may have misjudged my Dads motives here. The " big loudspeaker" was built for a purpose. It worked. It was heavily tested. Then suddenly the entire situation ( following a phone call) was disbanded. Dad never mentioned that loudspeaker again to me. After all of that work... I have no idea what happened to it. What I can figure is .... whatever information Dad wanted from that loudspeaker he got. Otherwise he would mentally never have been able to leave it behind like that. He had no interest at all at being a commercial developer of loudspeakers for the public. It was not where his interest lay. And as beautiful as the fans and the loudspeakers were .... in his own words ... he called them " ashtray products." What we need to find is what was actually on fire somewhere.

"But if Brown's version somehow did produce significantly better quality audio without a diaphragm than either a KLH-9 or a Dayton-Wright, both of which seem to have had military applications, then I can see it plausibly being judged too sensitive for commercialisation and buried, and that would be a very exciting result." You see this is where your perspective and mine differ. You are assuming here that Dads work was meant to develop a " better quality audio" which resulted somehow in something that something that the military became interested in and then buried. I submit for your consideration that what he was working on was never meant for the public to start with ( no matter what Deckers might have said here and there) and that it was already well couched with the military. The fact that the Cutlass spent her summer in Philadelphia and that fact was intentionally mentioned by both Morgan and Mr. Twigsnapper is no small consideration. That big loudspeaker in my opinion was never meant to bubble to the surface to help out the high fidelity crowd.

My Dad in that case would have just gone out and bought the best set that he could with the technology that had been developed already. He had a really good system ( conventional one) that he loved to listen to .... some people who knew him will remember the music ... Andrew or Steve, I believe you guys still have bits and pieces of that ..... but he had no intention of taking his unit and trying to compete with those other guys.

"Like AMPEX, KLH *must* have been connected to the military-intelligence community, and if Brown was building his own high-performance loudspeaker in the mid-1960s he must have either worked with him or had a rivalry with him. " Watch out for this kind of thinking. I am sure that your recognize the either/or here. either worked with him or a rivalry? What other situations might have been possible? I'll leave you with that question. <g> Linda
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby natecull » Thu Aug 07, 2008 1:52 pm

Linda Brown wrote:If you don't mind, I need to wade in here on some of the conclusions that you are reaching for. Maybe between the two of us we can get to a more defined viewpoint.


Please do, it's an honour. I admit I may be misunderstanding a lot of things about the technology. I'm trying to evaluate it by what little I understand of comparable technologies to see what parts seem out of place or innovative.

I don't know if you realized it or not but the " loudspeaker" did not have to have an appreciable air flow. At all. Maybe that might tweak some of your thinking. We even put speaker cloth over the front and airflow was never an issue. Technically don't ask me how that was accomplished. <g>


That does sound better than the systems my friend knew.

What do you mean " by conventional thinking it looks like he was exploring a technological dead end" I'm lost there can we discuss that more?


Again, I'm comparing his speaker to what my friend has told me of his work with electrostatics, which was that they could be run without a membrane but there was a distinct reduction of sound quality. You could boost the airflow to compensate but that had side-effects. That's what gave him the "yes I know about that and explored it and it was a nice party trick but I couldn't get it to compare with the other technologies" response. I would like to grab him again and sit him down and seriously have him ask you some questions, if that's possible.


" I suppose I'm not 100% convinced that there was anything gravitic about his speaker technology."........ Nate. Has anyone made that direct claim?


On this forum, yes, people have made that assumption and made comments building on it.


If there were gravitic components to the fan or loudspeaker (or anything like that) should we think that it would be lying on the top of things?


Er, yes. If gravity was being modified in a device sitting right in front of a qualified electrical engineer, I should very much expect that to be obvious. You'd be able to, eg, put it on a scale. Put sensitive weight probes on it and watch them change. Take voltage readings and see if they match theory or not. It would be something physical that could be played with and tested. I don't think any device would be able to keep something startlingly "impossible" like gravity control a secret that long unless the actual hardware and all associated basic science was totally hidden.


You may have misjudged my Dads motives here. The " big loudspeaker" was built for a purpose. It worked. It was heavily tested. Then suddenly the entire situation ( following a phone call) was disbanded. Dad never mentioned that loudspeaker again to me. After all of that work... I have no idea what happened to it. What I can figure is .... whatever information Dad wanted from that loudspeaker he got. Otherwise he would mentally never have been able to leave it behind like that. He had no interest at all at being a commercial developer of loudspeakers for the public. It was not where his interest lay. And as beautiful as the fans and the loudspeakers were .... in his own words ... he called them " ashtray products." What we need to find is what was actually on fire somewhere.


That does sound like how I understand your Dad to have operated. From the few photos and videos I've seen of him, he reminds me extremely much of a man I know (in fact a whole family). The kind of people who are natural born leaders and would pioneer things and then hand them on to others.


You see this is where your perspective and mine differ. You are assuming here that Dads work was meant to develop a " better quality audio" which resulted somehow in something that something that the military became interested in and then buried. I submit for your consideration that what he was working on was never meant for the public to start with ( no matter what Deckers might have said here and there) and that it was already well couched with the military. The fact that the Cutlass spent her summer in Philadelphia and that fact was intentionally mentioned by both Morgan and Mr. Twigsnapper is no small consideration. That big loudspeaker in my opinion was never meant to bubble to the surface to help out the high fidelity crowd.


Yes, I agree, and I am assuming that the military requirements came first, but there would still have had to be a reason even for a military or intelligence customer why this very experimental way of doing a loudspeaker was better than just taking what the Navy already had in Janszen's proven technology, which seems to have dropped off the official projects list about five or six years earlier.

I mean yes, I am assuming that the Caroline Group core crossed over with Navy people, and that the reason one would build a loudspeaker and invent new technology to do so rather than using off-the-shelf technologies would be to get quality audio reproduction. Seriously good quality. (Not necessarily of a movie soundtrack, but if that's what he used to tune it then it must have been optimised for human hearing range and not, eg, ultrasonics.) And that it would be pointless for any scientist to invest time in a project that had already been solved by someone else, and the best way to do that would be to find out what that other person had achieved.

(Other reasons for doing so would be 'just for fun, to see if it could be done', which would ring true for lots of technical people, or to push a personal technological obsession at the expense of using the best tool for the job, or to work around intellectual property rights by using an inferior but 'in-house' technology -- but that doesn't seem to have been the case here.)

I suppose a part of me is also trying to hedge my bets and entertain the possibility that since this work was done at least partly in the open (he didn't hide it at least from you), then it was potentially commercialisable (as the fan was), but that the situation with Decker degraded and it wasn't considered safe to do so. Trying to hold the two ideas of your Dad being both a super-spy and just an ordinary guy together.


My Dad in that case would have just gone out and bought the best set that he could with the technology that had been developed already. He had a really good system ( conventional one) that he loved to listen to .... some people who knew him will remember the music ... Andrew or Steve, I believe you guys still have bits and pieces of that ..... but he had no intention of taking his unit and trying to compete with those other guys.


Mmm. I don't suppose you have any idea what make it was? I mean if it was a KLH then there's a connection right there. If it wasn't, then maybe this whole theory is a wash.


Watch out for this kind of thinking. I am sure that your recognize the either/or here. either worked with him or a rivalry? What other situations might have been possible? I'll leave you with that question. <g> Linda


Yes, quite. There could have been all sorts of dynamics at play. I guess I'm just saying that the name Janszen jumps out at me - a lot more so than, say, Peter Walker of Quad, over in England, who was making high-performance electrostatics in 1957 but doesn't seem to have had any military connections at all. And that what happened to William Wright later in the 1970s suggests that the US military was keeping an eye on any high-end audio developments originating in the civilian world and actively vacuuming them up.
It's a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.
natecull
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Re: Townsend's stereo system

Postby Chris Knight » Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:30 pm

Linda and Nate,

Yes, I have the complete stereo system. Townsend's personal stereo system was a Marantz - all digital -a rather nice setup.
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby Linda Brown » Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:09 pm

Ah! Thankyou Andrew!

My memories of that set were the many hours of enjoyment that Dad got from it, listening mainly to classical music.

Of course as he got older his hearing diminished so most of the time Mom and I were pleading ...."PLEASE. PLEASE. TURN IT DOWN!"

Does that help at all Nate, or did we just open another can of worms for you?

And this is just a curiosity question here . The Wright you mention here has no connection to " Peter Wright" I am assuming? Linda
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby natecull » Fri Aug 08, 2008 1:49 am

Linda Brown wrote:Does that help at all Nate, or did we just open another can of worms for you?


The Marantz company doesn't ring any immediate bells, no, so maybe I'm off track. A well-regarded hi-fi system in the 1960s, sold to the Japanese in 1964 but design still based in the USA, and eventually making its way via Sony to Phillips. And digital in 1979. That's pretty impressive. But no obvious defense links that I've uncovered in an evening's surfing. Still, one wouldn't necessarily mix business with pleasure. But it means he wasn't a speaker tinkerer, so it seems very strange that he'd be able to build one from scratch and get it to work perfectly with zero prior knowledge of the field.



And this is just a curiosity question here . The Wright you mention here has no connection to " Peter Wright" I am assuming? Linda


The Peter Wright who Trickfox refers to as 'the best acoustical intercept guy in England'? Not as far as I can tell, no.
It's a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.
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Re: Electrostatic speakers

Postby Mark Culpepper » Fri Aug 08, 2008 2:51 am

Nate,

You said

"But it means he wasn't a speaker tinkerer, so it seems very strange that he'd be able to build one from scratch and get it to work perfectly with zero prior knowledge of the field.

But you see, thats just the point. He wasn't a tinkerer in speakers. His speaker worked perfectly not because he was looking at it as a speaker but that he understood the physics very well which made it work in the first place. And apparently not too many people joined him in that understanding.

And I frankly agree with Ms. Brown. I doubt that he was at all concerned about " beating the competition". He wasn't even competing with the guys that you have mentioned and unless one of them happened to have very strong ties with super classified military material I would doubt that any one of them would even know his name.

Yet .... he was on a first name basis with two of the giants.....Alexander Pontiatoff and William Lear. How strange is that? MarkC
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